dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

Why do people say 'after dark' when what they mean is 'during dark'? After dark would be when it's light again, right? * There are 10 types of people in this world -- those who read binary, and those who don't. * I'm rethinking the whole brown rice thing. What if it's just more white liberal self-hatred? Whole wheat, honey, unbleached flour. All better. Sez who? * Eugene should be HQ for White People for Diversity. We'll fight for diversity to be included in books, which is where we know to look for it. * Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but give a man a pillow, and he'll dream of steak. * What can you say about a state that puts the town of North Bend 225 miles southwest of Bend? We rely on visitors for entertainment.

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Do We Understand Proximity? Not Even Close!

January 23rd, 2015 · 4 Comments

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Smart people sometimes create their own confusion. We use metaphors to better understand the world, but then sometimes the metaphor overshadows the literal. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about proximity, prompted in part by Barbara Mossberg’s lovely letter to the editor last month.

If you missed it, Mossberg’s brief letter rhapsodized poetically about the sound of a train whistle. It marks the passing of time, the industry of others, the ability to get things done. Without naming names, she argued that a railroad “quiet zone” through downtown Eugene might sound good to many, but something would be lost.

If only the train whistle could be far away for everyone and nearby for no one.

My office for four years was a block from the train tracks. When a train rumbled through, you could feel it. If the horn was blaring, you couldn’t hear yourself think, much less think about what you were hearing.

Somewhere between that office and Mossberg’s home, there’s a dotted line. It’s different for every person, but it’s a line nevertheless. On one side of the line, the sound is pleasing. On the other side, it’s a nuisance.

I’m not choosing sides on the quiet zone issue and I don’t believe Mossberg meant to either. I’m pointing out only that the issue has two sides, that the sides are quite dissimilar, and that distance sometimes changes something into something else.

Not very long ago, we gave special stature to those who were immediately and directly impacted by an issue. A tall building could be stopped if a neighbor’s garden would get less sun. A corner bar could lose its license if too many residents nearby complained. A street would get widened only if affected property owners agreed to the improvement.

We gave that healthy dynamic a name: Not In My Back Yard. Once it became an acronym — NIMBY — it began to take on a life of its own. Here’s where the literal got overwhelmed by the metaphor.

When NIMBY expressed the views of those who had a “BY” connected to the issue, it was self-limiting. There are only a certain number of “back yards” connected to a train whistle or a corner bar or a tall building. We gave those affected a larger voice because we acknowledged their lesser number.

The train whistle is far away for many, but the teeth-rattling din is a stronger sensation for the few. That’s an important distinction and part of a healthy debate.

But now NIMBY has become a world view. Everything — and everyone — is connected, so that special stature can be claimed by anyone who connects a certain set of dots. Watershed purity, a pleasing skyline, taxpayer-funded addiction treatment, emergency vehicle response times — once everyone can claim that special status, the status ceases being special.

Retired architecture professor Dan Herbert told me once, “NIMBY has been replaced with BANANA — Build Almost Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.” Like the train whistle, we want everything close, but not too close. It’s not hard to understand that’s not possible for everyone all the time, which is why compromises must be made.

Living together is complicated, so it’s important not to get confused. Because sometimes it’s not the garden squash that might die.

Lane County is confronting a possible measles epidemic, due in part by parents who have refused to vaccinate themselves or their children. It’s not hard to find like-minded parents on the Internet, sharing concerns and conspiracies that make a parent feel strongly about their choice. We “feel close” to those in the chat room who agree with us, but the measles virus doesn’t understand or abide by the metaphor.

Taking that infected child to the mall endangers infants who are too young to be vaccinated or to join Internet chat rooms. No harm comes to anyone when a Facebook video “goes viral.” Not so when a literal virus comes in literal contact with someone who is literally close.

We love to talk about all the ways our world is shrinking. Let’s occasionally remind ourselves that there are certain ways in which that’s not true and never will be.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ 4 CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Deep · Psycho · Urban Design · You-gene

Eugene Had Its Own “Charlie Hebdo”

January 16th, 2015 · 11 Comments

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Nous sommes Charlie.

Eugene has a unique connection to the French satire periodical Charlie Hebdo, that is gathering worldwide sympathies since last week’s attack that killed a dozen of its staffers.

We gave succor and support to our own Comic News from 1988 until 2005. We didn’t stand in its way as it grew into America’s only free weekly cartoon and humor magazine.

I managed those antics for its final decade, as if anyone can ever claim that antics have been managed. You tolerated it every week, which is all the encouragement some of us need. We are Charlie.

When the Skinner Butte Cross was being removed, Comic News suggested it be replaced with a clothesline between our buttes, where residents could air our dirty laundry. When the new library was being designed, we were the first to recommend a fourth floor — though our idea was to leave the third floor unfinished as an art installation, allowing residents to argue for a decade about what should fill it.

Comic News never endorsed candidates, but we did assemble a panel of experts to determine that John Kitzhaber governed his hair better than opponent Bill Sizemore did. When developer John Musumeci was grabbing headlines for his own antics, his investment company was still listed in the phone book as Arlie Land & Cattle Co., so Comic News staffers called his office regularly with questions about vaccinating cows.

We were threatened with lawsuits, jack-booted thugs, and an occasional punch in the nose, but we never got a death threat. No harm ever befell us. Like Charlie, we never missed a deadline.

The University of Oregon’s Special Collections Library now has a near-complete set of our 505 issues. I like to imagine our archives and Ken Kesey’s mixing it up after the lights go out.

When Danish cartoonists drew a fatwa for depicting Mohammed in 2005, we republished the offending cartoons as soon as we could, though that was after our free local edition had ceased publication. Here’s a factoid you may not have known, because we never told anyone. Our editor, publisher, head writer, and art director all had religion degrees — from Vanderbilt, Yale, Notre Dame and Bob Jones University.

That never surprised me. Once you’ve thought deeply about God — regardless of where those thoughts led you — all the foibles of humanity find a larger context. It’s easier to find what’s funny when there’s nothing that’s out of bounds.

We insisted that funny was all that mattered, but we also knew that wasn’t the case. If it wasn’t at least a little bit true, it couldn’t stay funny for long. Likewise, mean-spiritedness might evoke laughter to mask discomfort, but only for a moment or two. Making it both funny and true was the trick we tried to pull on every page. It made for some late nights. There was always pizza.

Comic News pushed the envelope, but licked it first with great care. You laughed, so you were implicated too. Humor allows no bystanders; only accomplices.

So the groundswell of support for Charlie also doesn’t surprise me. We may comfort ourselves by marginalizing our clowns and court jesters, but we know their role is essential to any good we hope to do. Self-importance, overreach and groupthink will always plague human endeavors. Humor offers an antidote to our arrogant excesses.

Commentator David Brooks and others may want to put the jokesters at the children’s table, leaving serious discussions for the so-called adults. I’ve spent Thanksgivings at each table. The kids’ table was way more fun.

That’s not to say the fun isn’t also useful. It is. When the emperor parades around buck naked, it will be one of the so-called childish ones who dares to say what everyone can see.

We mustn’t think these outliers don’t matter. The clowns play an important role in this rodeo we call life. The face paint and the silly shoes exaggerate their human features, but their serious job is to save us from whatever trouble we’ve created. We don’t stop to think what bad might befall them, until it does.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ 11 CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Deep · Media · Psycho · Small World · You-gene

It’s More than a Big Game — Life Has Changed Since 2007

January 9th, 2015 · No Comments

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We all want Monday’s football game to be about more than the game. We want it to be about life, history, the whole shebang. That would help explain how we have rearranged our lives to watch what others think is “just a game.” With appropriate apologies to both mountains and mole hills, I’m only too happy to oblige.

On February 14, 2007, the University of Oregon hired a little-known coach from New Hampshire to be their football team’s new offensive coordinator. That same day, the Federal Reserve worried in its quarterly report that median home sales were dropping. We saw the first signs of a sub-prime mortgage industry collapse. The housing bubble was about to burst.

What followed seemed like chaos at the time, but now we can see that a fundamental realignment was underway. For the United States economy and for collegiate football, nothing has been the same since. Here are a few lessons we have learned.

Big, Fat and Happy? How Does Two Out of Three Sound?

Americans for not-quite-a-century have been known for being “big, fat, and happy.” We’ve done it better than anyone else in the world. But recently — only in the last couple of decades — the “fat” part of the formula has become troublesome. For the first time since World War I, Americans sense they are falling behind.

Football recruiting has long held to the belief that a successful teams needs only a few “unstoppable forces,” but dozens of “immoveable objects.” It was easy to train a big kid to stand still and let physics do the rest. The “smash-mouth” game wasn’t much fun to watch, and even less fun to play. But it worked — until it didn’t.

Trade Width for Height and Go For Wing-Span

Every 300-pound high schooler will get plenty of offers to play football. In the old way of doing things, simply taking up room was enough for earning one’s keep. University of Oregon Strength and Conditioning Coach Jim Radcliffe sees it differently — physical mass is good, but explosive power is better. The Ducks started recruiting for height and wingspan. As Coach Ken Woody harps at the defense in his columns, “get your hands up.”

Likewise, savvy employers have changed how they recruit employees. Gone are the days when workers were hired based on their work experience, grade point average, and professional pedigree. Companies are increasingly designing their own creativity and problem-solving tests. They care less about how good a worker might be at what they currently do. The emerging metric is how good they’re likely to be at whatever they’re asked to do next.

Speed is Not Only in Your Feet

The Ducks recruit for speed. (It helps that Hayward Field offers our only legitimate sport legacy.) But speed has to be mixed with smarts in our system. The “zone-read” system is designed to give players multiple options. Adaptation is key. Effort matters, of course. But output is less disputable. Trying your hardest won’t matter, if what you’re doing doesn’t work.

Whether we’re merging onto a highway, choosing from a dinner menu, or buying an extended warranty on our latest electronic gadget, we’ve never been asked to make more choices in life. Unfortunately, life didn’t slow down to make room for all that choosing. So those who do well and sleep content are those who have learned to make their choices quickly and clearly.

Role Players? Try Roll Players

Running back Byron Marshall reinvented himself as a wide receiver. No cornerback wants to Marshall’s fullback frame at full speed in the open field. If you can roll with what the system requires, there’s a bright future for you. If you’re planning to stand pat and play a single role for decades, good luck with that.

In today’s economy, gold watches are no longer being given for years of service. Every day is a competition. Workers follow opportunities and reinvent themselves to capitalize on them. If there’s an opening — whether inside the company or working for a competitor — it’s full-steam ahead.

The West Shall Rise Again

Populists have gotten frustrated with the continual gridlock in Washington, DC, so they’ve turned to states and cities, where progressive policies can be incubated and proven. Whether it’s for minimum wage increases, marijuana destigmatization, sick-leave mandates, or inventive transit projects, the West is seen as fertile ground. There’s less fear of the unknown out here, even though there may be more unknowns.

While the rest of the country would mostly prefer to resist change, we’re more likely to embrace those changes and find ways to make them work for us. In post-season play this year, ranked PAC-12 football teams were 5-1. Not only did the South East Conference get shut out from the national championship game for the first time in more than a decade, but their ranked teams were 2-5 in bowl play.
==
Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

→ No CommentsTags: arr-gee thumbnails · Civic · Deep · You-gene

Being Resolute Can Change Everything

January 9th, 2015 · No Comments

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If more people made New Year’s resolutions, teaching evolution in high schools wouldn’t be so perilous.

What teenagers too often take from their life science lessons is not what scientists would call evolution, strictly speaking. Regardless of what’s being taught, what high schoolers are learning is gradualism. They take the lesson to mean that change always happens slowly, imperceptibly, by natural but unseen forces.

Balderdash.

As we’ve secularized our society, we’ve lost one of religion’s best conceptual contributions — conversion. Whether it’s by divine calling or personal choice, people and circumstances sometimes change all at once. Some would even claim that dramatic change more the rule than the exception.

Biologists refer to the history of change as “punctuated equilibrium.” When they’re speaking among themselves, they use the shorthand term “punk-eek.” (Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Biologists suddenly seem adorable.)

Biological history ambles along in no particular hurry. “Same old, same old” is how it usually goes. Random changes occur all the time, but most are flushed out by the status quo. Stillborn or sterile, mistakes are most often forgotten.

Occasionally a random mutation — by itself or in combination with an environmental upheaval — leads to a big change. The sameness is punctured. Smaller changes ensue until a new status quo takes over. Then things stay the same again, until they don’t.

Cultures follow a similar pattern. Civilizations want to maintain order and mostly they do. Occasional disruptions occur, but most flush away after a news cycle or two. Rarely but reliably, larger disruptions take hold and alter the course of human events. As with genes, so with memes.

Individuals challenge the status quo and sometimes the quo loses its status. Changes occur.

That’s why resolutions are important. They remind us of our greatest power as humans — to change, intentionally. We can recognize the patterns of our own behavior, imagine a different pattern, and then will ourselves to alter that pattern. We can perceive circumstances around us, understand our role in maintaining the current order, and choose to disrupt it.

Any day is a good day to make a change, but January offers social support. Others are pushing themselves to change. That makes it a little easier for each of us to push ourselves. By February, nobody will be asking about it anymore, so there’s little risk of enduring the shame of failure.

In fact, success is barely the point. Every attempt — even if it lasts only a day — is a success, because it reminds us that we can exert some control, if only for a moment or two. Sometimes that’s enough. We need occasional reminders that we still have a say in our future. We’re not victims in our own lives, unless we choose to be.

Picking a resolution that’s hard, but not too hard is often the trickiest part. Resolving not to kiss a dog in 2015 might be too hard; resolving not to kiss a dog in church, too easy. You’re looking for that sweet spot that contains both comfort and challenge. You’re seeking disequilibrium. You want your “eek” to be “punked.”

How would you like the world to be different once 2016 rolls around? How would you like your own world to differ? Change is always available. Sometimes asking is all that’s necessary.

If you make a change, no matter how small or how brief, you’re exerting yourself on the world as you know it. Your actions suggest and support a simple truth: Things don’t have to stay the way they are. Nothing can improve if change is forbidden. Change doesn’t always lead to improvement, but improvement comes from nowhere else.

The lesson evolution means to teach us is that tinkering can never be underrated. The smallest change — unnoticed and seemingly random — might produce enormous consequences. Not knowing where it might take you is exactly the point. As things were, things no longer are, thanks to you.

You cannot know the ultimate power of that, but somewhere there will be a high school biology teacher who’d like to thank you.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Deep · Psycho

… lateralists wanted (?) …

January 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

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Companies who claim they want to encourage more lateral thinking should give their workers more latitude to solve problems.

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why you should make a New Years resolution

January 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

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If more people made New Year’s resolutions, teaching evolution in high schools wouldn’t be so perilous.

What teenagers too often take from their life science lessons is not what scientists would call evolution, strictly speaking. Regardless of what’s being taught, what high schoolers are learning is gradualism. They take the lesson to mean that change always happens slowly, imperceptibly, by natural but unseen forces.

Balderdash.

As we’ve secularized our society, we’ve lost one of religion’s best concepts — conversion. Whether it’s by divine calling or personal choice, people and circumstances sometimes change all at once. In fact, it’s more the rule than the exception.

Biologists refer to the pattern as “punctuated equilibrium.” When they’re speaking among themselves, they use the shorthand term “punk-eek.” (Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Biologists suddenly seem adorable.)

Biological history ambles along in no particular hurry. “Same old, same old” is how it usually goes. Random changes occur all the time, but most are flushed out by the status quo. Stillborn or sterile, mistakes are forgotten.

Occasionally a random mutation and/or an environmental upheaval leads to a big change. The sameness is punctured. Smaller changes ensue until a new status quo takes over. Then things stay the same again, until they don’t.

Cultures follow a similar pattern. Civilizations want to maintain order and mostly they do. Occasional disruptions occur, but most flush away after a news cycle or two. Rarely but reliably, larger disruptions take hold and alter the course of human events. As with genes, so with memes.

Individuals challenge the status quo and sometimes the quo loses its status. Changes occur.

That’s why resolutions are important. They remind us of our greatest power as humans — to change, intentionally. We can recognize the patterns of our own behavior, imagine a different pattern, and then will ourselves to change. We can perceive circumstances around us, understand our role in maintaining the current order, and choose to disrupt it.

Any day is a good day to make a change, but the New Year offers social support. Others are pushing themselves to change. That makes it a little easier to push ourselves. By February, nobody will be asking about it anymore, so there’s little risk of enduring the shame of failure.

In fact, success is barely the point. Every attempt — even if it lasts only a day — is a success, because it reminds us that we’re not victims in our own lives. We can exert some control, if only for a moment or two. Sometimes that’s enough. We still have a say in our future.

Picking a resolution that’s hard, but not too hard is often the trickiest part. Resolving not to kiss a dog in 2015 might be too hard; resolving not to kiss one in church, too easy. You’re looking for that sweet spot that contains both comfort and challenge. You’re seeking disequilibrium. You want your “eek” to be “punked.”

How would you like the world to be different once 2016 rolls around? How would you like your world to differ? Change is always available. Sometimes asking is all that’s necessary.

If you make a change, no matter how small or for how long, you’re reintroducing caprice into the world. To everyone but you, the change will seem random. And that’s exactly the point. You cannot know its ultimate power, but somewhere there will be a high school biology teacher who’d like to thank you.

→ No CommentsTags: arr-gee thumbnails · Deep · Psycho

We Choose Convenience, Sacrificing Permanence

January 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

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As the odometer of life rotates back to zeros and ones, I recall a lesson about permanence I learned on Friday, September 5, 2014. Nearly everything permanent is marked by a single moment. More precisely, it’s marked by the last moment before the world made room for this new permanence. Eternity needs only one direction to go forever.

I was flying back to Eugene from Oakland that morning, using a low-cost airline for a quick trip to visit new friends. I returned home and opened the mail collected during my absence. It included a large envelop from a long-ago college roommate. If you had followed me that day, that’s all you would have seen. But that’s not all that happened.

Back up a day, to Thursday morning. The airline reminded me to print my boarding pass before arriving at the airport. This particular airline offers ridiculously inexpensive flights, but then charges for anything extra. Asking them to print my boarding pass would cost me five dollars.

I don’t disrespect their business model. They have to make a profit somehow, and it won’t come from selling seats on their airplanes for less than $50.

My friends did not have a printer at home, so I figured I’d stop at a quick-print shop and take care of it. Our day got busy and I forgot. I was ready to admit my five-dollar defeat, but the airline offered me an alternative. I could download their free smart phone app and display my boarding pass that way.

The app suggested I get to the airport two hours ahead of my departure time, just in case, but certainly I should allow at least an hour. It turns out this “suggestion” might have been a command.

The next morning, I reached the TSA check-point 55 minutes before my flight was leaving. Suddenly the app “encountered an error” and could not display my boarding pass. My phone’s screen instructed me to fetch a printed boarding pass from a ticket agent.

The TSA agent told me the app is programmed so the boarding pass “expires” 60 minutes before flight time. (I didn’t verify this to be true, but it’s certainly technically possible.) I would claim they confiscated it, but I couldn’t prove I ever had it — whatever “it” is in this case.

I did admire their cunning, if that’s what it was. What the app giveth, the app can taketh, however its programmers pleaseth.

You think this doesn’t apply to you, but you don’t run a used bookstore. Apple and Amazon have filed patents for technology designed to prevent users from transferring (read, reselling) their music, e-books, and other digital belongings. They’d like to eliminate what’s called the “secondary market.” And you thought only farmers were being trapped by technology into buying their seeds every year.

With that lesson imprinted on my mind and the airplane’s seat-back tray still imprinted on my knees, I walked in my front door and opened a surprising piece of mail. Jay Goldstein and I were roommates and best friends in 1977. This summer, he cleaned out his attic and stumbled across a shoebox filled with letters I’d written him. His package to me included this very brief introduction: “Not surprising you ended up in the writing biz.”

Juxtaposed to my electronic boarding pass’s evaporation, pen and paper suddenly seemed profoundly permanent — frozen in time.

I had in front of me a personal time capsule: letters, postmarks, photographs. It was mostly mundane teenage stuff, but it was still me, almost two-thirds of a lifetime ago. I was a Midwestern boy learning how big the world was, writing to my friend who had wandered west until he hit ocean.

One letter ended with my pledge to “take seriously [his] recommendation of Oregon,” where he was living that summer. Twenty years later, I did. (Ironically, Jay settled down in Illinois, a few blocks from where he grew up.)

If you’ve not yet made a 2015 resolution, I offer you this. Write a letter to a friend. Mail it. After that, you never know what might happen.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Deep · Media · Time

Found on my Rooftop: Naughty and Nice List

December 26th, 2014 · 6 Comments

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It was dark. It was late. What I remember most was the clatter.

I sprang from my bed to see what was wrong, but on the roof remained only sleigh tracks and hoof marks. I was glad I bought reindeer-safe, organic roof moss retardant, or that clatter might have ended with eight loud thumps.

Then I saw something had been left behind. It was a list. Here it is.

Kitty Piercy (nice) — for giving those who would like to follow her as mayor of Eugene plenty of time to talk themselves out of it.

Uber ride-sharing service (naughty) — for not playing nice with Eugene or Portland or really with anyone, giving the nascent “sharing economy” a black eye.

Otto Poticha (nice) — for waging an all-out campaign to save the old Eugene City Hall.

Eugene City Council (nice) — for not saving it.

Michael Gottfredson (naughty) — for not getting out enough to see how imperiled his presidency of the University of Oregon had become.

Scott Coltrane and Frances Bronet (nice) — for stepping in to give the state’s flagship university some stability during a time that would have been tumultuous even without an abrupt transition in Johnson Hall.

Allan Benavides (nice) — for convincing the Chicago Cubs not to replace the front office staff when taking over the Eugene Emeralds from the San Diego Padres.

Capstone Collegiate Communities (naughty) — for racing to open their downtown housing complex in time for the school year, sacrificing quality of construction and clarity with contractors to meet their unrealistic timeline.

Joey Harrington (nice) — for setting the eventual stage for Marcus Mariota’s non-campaign to win the Heisman Trophy. If Marcus has been compared to Jesus, Joey played John the Baptist.

Mark Helfrich (nice) — for never becoming part of the story, which can’t be easy when you’re the highest paid employee on the state’s payroll.

Marcus Mariota (nice) — see separate sheet for additional information.

Vin Lananna (nice) — for aiming so high that he’s not certain he’ll always succeed.

Springfield City Council (naughty) — for aiming so far south that their urban growth boundary expansion probably won’t succeed.

The Register-Guard (nice) — for continuing to publish daily, hiring new reporters, and expanding its on-line presence — when other newspapers are resorting to Draconian cuts and click-bait schemes.

United States Veterans Administration (naughty) — for taking forever to settle on a location for their Lane County clinic, finally being built now on Chad Drive.

Karsten Rasmussen (nice) — for seeing the long-term value of a land swap between the city and county on 8th Avenue, opening the way for a possible expanded farmers market.

Rick Wright (nice) — for allowing activists to lead the Civic Stadium preservation effort.

Lane County Historical Museum (naughty) — for not doing enough to preserve public ownership of Eugene’s downtown Post Office.

Paul Weinhold (nice) — for leading the University of Oregon Foundation into uncharted territory, finding inventive ways to support the university’s mission while also building the foundation’s investment portfolio.

James Fox (nice) — for leading the University of Oregon Library’s successful effort to keep Ken Kesey’s collected works and papers archived in Eugene.

Jack Roberts (nice) — for failing forward.

University of Oregon Board of Trustees (naughty) — for learning late (and awkwardly) the difference between a private training session and a “training” designation used to keep their dealings private.

KRVM-FM (nice) — for keeping real variety in music.

Café Yumm (naughty) — for not developing a pizza recipe, using their signature sauce. Somebody figured out how to use pesto — so how hard could it be?

Bill Hulings, Storm Kennedy, and Mark Lewis (r.i.p.) (nice) — for not only staying in Eugene when their performance talent could take them anywhere, but choosing also to work here, to the delight of local audiences.

Paul Westhead (nice) — for going away quietly.

Peter DeFazio (nice) — for not going away.

Ron Wyden (nice) — for resisting every temptation to wear a lapel button that says, “I told you so.”

John Kitzhaber (naughty) — for slowing but not stopping coal trains traversing the state, peeving environmentalists but guaranteeing that the state’s naughtiest still will get something in their stockings this year.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ 6 CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Grins · Quips · Upper-Left-Edge · You-gene

Retire Marcus Mariota’s No. 8 For History’s Sake

December 19th, 2014 · 4 Comments

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Retire jersey No. 8. Not just at the University of Oregon, but at every local school, in every sport.

The only jerseys with that number anywhere in Lane County from now on should be worn by fans who remember and celebrate Marcus Mariota and all he represents — both on the football field and off it.

Our culture obsesses over novelty and innovation, so we don’t value history much — especially when we’re in the midst of it. Retiring the number will mark and teach history after this thrilling moment has passed.

Young Charlie Papé divulged on national television last month that everyone at O’Hara Catholic School talk about only three things: Jesus, girls, and Marcus Mariota. Young athletes everywhere will be asking their coaches if they can wear No. 8 on their backs.

Wise coaches should reply, as Mariota no doubt would, “Follow his lead and do your best. Then people might someday retire the number you’re wearing too.”

Years from now, youngsters will still be talking about Jesus and girls, but they may not know the Mariota story. The omission of No. 8 will give us opportunities to retell it.

Not to be outdone by a middle schooler, one fan was interviewed on camera after the Ducks finished off its Pac 12 championship game, “Marcus is not only the best football player in the country! He may be the best football player ever!” It was a remarkable moment, because Phil Knight doesn’t give many interviews.

All that was before the College Football Playoff pairings were announced, before Mariota swept the national awards circuit and brought home the University of Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy, before he wowed the crowd with his heartfelt acceptance speech and before he delivered David Letterman’s Top Ten List.

Retiring a jersey number isn’t easy. A college football team travels with 85 players, not counting those who are injured and won’t play. So what? Doing what’s hard is part of the tribute.

Mariota sat out his junior year at St. Louis High School in Hawaii, knowing he would be lightly recruited without a game day highlight reel. He has stayed true to his high school sweetheart, even though the entire country has fallen in love with him. He played with pain that we’ve only heard rumors about. He cried when his team lost and then came back stronger. He wore a tuxedo on Letterman. None of that could have been easy.

Shared billing with Jesus notwithstanding, we’ve learned the 21-year-old is not perfect. He was caught speeding in Veneta after midnight not long ago. According to the gospels, Jesus was never caught speeding.

A detail from that incident was reported only last weekend by ESPN’s Ivan Maisel. Mariota was driving back from a Boys and Girls Club banquet, where he had given a speech. His first mistake was staying afterwards until every kid got an autograph and a selfie.

The trooper reported that Mariota was respectful and cooperative. He paid the ticket without fanfare. Less than four years ago, the takeaway quote from a similar infraction was, “We smoked it all.”

If Mariota is being equated with Jesus, then Joey Harrington was our John the Baptist. Joey Heisman’s image on a Times Square billboard put the Ducks on the map and began building what’s now a national brand. But uniforms and billboards can do only so much. Eventually, talent and character matter more than uniforms.

All the more reason to hang this uniform up and remember the young man No. 8 represents.

It’s a new age for University of Oregon athletics now. Good players in every sport and young people everywhere are asking themselves, “What would Marcus do?”

If enough follow his footsteps to the University of Oregon, we may even fill all the student housing that has boomed during his years here. For that, the city of Eugene will be forever grateful.

The city has no jersey numbers they can retire, but they do have an “eight” they can dedicate to our Mariota memory. Eighth Avenue soon will be extended to connect downtown to the Willamette River. At least that new portion should be named Marcus Way.

Like Mariota himself, the timing is almost too perfect. Eighth Avenue downtown is being reconfigured for two-way traffic.

University of Oregon coaches reinvented football around a zone-read offense. They needed a “dual threat” quarterback who could pass or run the ball, forcing defenders to “look both ways.” They searched everywhere for a player who could become strong enough, fast enough, and smart enough.

They found Marcus Mariota. The rest is history.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · You-gene

Inside a Grand Jury

December 16th, 2014 · 4 Comments

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Journalists seldom are chosen for trial juries. Attorneys on both sides won’t risk having a trained skeptic on the panel who might undo their effort to persuade them toward a verdict. So I greeted my jury summons in the summer of 2005 with quiet glee.

I had closed down my weekly newspaper earlier that year. Spring-term teaching was complete. A little diversion of sitting in the courthouse and watching the system work sounded good to me.

When my name was called, I expected to be on the hooked side of a “catch and release” sport. I stood in a circle with six others. We were asked whether there was any reason we couldn’t serve for a month. No one objected.

“Then you’re in,” the clerk announced. So began my stint on a Lane County grand jury.

A judge came over to thank us for doing our civic duty. “We’re proud that our grand jury is not a rubber stamp,” she told us. “We want you to think critically. Your job is to check the prosecutors’ work before any trial begins. We don’t want taxpayer money wasted on cases that shouldn’t go to trial.”

Then we were led to the room that would be our home for the next four weeks. It looked like a playhouse version of a courtroom: a long table with three chairs along the left wall, and a line of seven chairs behind a rail-high wall to the right.

“Can we get four more chairs?” I asked the court secretary.

“Why?” she asked, pointing. “Your chairs are against that wall.”

“If our job is to deliberate together, that’s harder to do when we’re seated in a theater row,” I explained. “Eye contact and all that.”

“No,” she replied. She started back toward her desk, just outside our room. Then she paused, looked at her comfortable shoes, and sighed, “In 20 years of doing this job, nobody’s ever asked about the seating arrangement.” There I was — ten minutes into a four-week assignment and already exposed as a troublemaker.

We made do with the seating, but it seemed emblematic as the month progressed. I cannot divulge any details of our deliberations, but I can tell you that questioning authority was easier said than done.

Every day, we got a steady stream of indictments for our consideration. We got to know all the assistant district attorneys and their individual styles. We saw many of the same policemen over and over. We witnessed the camaraderie between law enforcement professionals. We heard from witnesses and victims.

We never met a defendant or a defense attorney. No witness was ever cross-examined. We were allowed to ask questions and we did, but very few of those questions challenged the authorities before us.

I blogged about my experience, but not about any of the cases themselves. I had been looking forward to seeing how the system works, and I certainly got plenty of that.

We adjudicated over a hundred alleged felonies. Many were “FTA” formalities — suspects who had been released from jail and given a court date. Their subsequent “Failure To Appear” is itself a felony, requiring the grand jury’s ruling. Those were clear-cut cases, but many others were not.

I dissented on about a dozen charges, but I seldom had any others join me. I gathered enough votes to get only one charge dropped during my month on the panel. It was a single charge of wrongful possession among more than a dozen being brought against alleged meth dealers who may have looted their neighbors to intimidate them.

I’m sure all of the cases we heard have by now gone to trial or been otherwise settled. Guilt or innocence has been determined. In the case of every felony charge, a panel of citizens has heard the details of the case at least once. The system’s not perfect, but it’s sincere.

Do badges and uniforms alter people’s perceptions of credibility and respect? Certainly they do. Are regular citizens comfortable challenging that authority, even in a small room with an awkward seating arrangement? Not from what I saw.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. You can read his 2005 blog entries at http://www.dksez.com/category/grandjury/page/3/

→ 4 CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Psycho